The H2Ohio program is moving forward.

The future of the program was left in doubt when the COVID-19 pandemic caused budget cuts at the state level. However, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is moving forward with $50 million in incentive funds for producers to implement a variety of best management practices (BMP).

These BMPs include conservation crop rotation, phosphorus placement, variable rate phosphorus application and more, and are meant to help reduce phosphorous runoff from reaching waterways, including Lake Erie.

Now that the program has confirmed funding, that means the county soil and water conservation districts (SWCD) can move forward with administering the program.

“We had a really good response with our signup,” Manny Lay, Williams SWCD district technician, said in mid-June. “Everyone who did sign up, due to financial cuts, we’re just now starting to bring back into the office to redo their contract applications.”

According to a letter from the Williams SWCD sent to applicants and The Bryan Times, applicants need to schedule an appointment for application review by Aug. 14.

It also requested applicants to complete field charts and to bring field maps for acres they wish enrolled in the program.

Anyone wishing to cancel their application was asked to call the office.

Lay told The Times he was unsure how many of the approximately 146 applicants would wish to drop out.

Originally, he said they had around 146 applications in the county. Lay was unsure if some of them would drop out of the program.

“Some people were on the fence about signing up originally. I don’t know if they are going to redo the contract or application,” he said.

According to an ODA press release, the ODA will evaluate program applications from Sept. 1-Oct. 31 and notify approval of their voluntary management plans (VNMP). The VNMPs must be approved by Dec. 31.

Implementation of the program will be in fall of this year through fall of 2021.

Available funding beyond that point is in limbo.

“The way the funding is, originally it was a four-year program,” Lay said. “Now, there will be no funding for the 2020 season, 2021 will be fully funded, 2022 and 2023 will be funded if the funds are available.”

He added they couldn’t project availability of payments and the ODA release confirmed that future year incentives are contingent on available funds.

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